The calf actually consists of two separate muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both function to assist in foot flexing and bending the knee. Injuries can occur through sudden stress to the muscles, a blow to the muscles or repetitive overuse. Recovery time is contingent on the severity of the injury.
Grade 1 Strain
Mild strains due to stretching and micro-tearing of the muscles result in less pain and can be treated with rest, ice, compression, elevation and over-the-counter pain or anti-inflammatory medications. Recovery can occur within two to three weeks.
Grade 2 Strain
Grade 2 strains indicate damage or tearing to a significant number of muscle fibers. Symptoms usually include severe pain and swelling, possibly mild bruising to the area. More severe strains can take eight to 10 weeks of recovery time.
Grade 3 Strain
Grade 3 strain usually indicates complete rupture of the muscle. The torn muscles can be seen to bunch towards the top of the calf region followed by severe pain and swelling. Recovery can take as long as three months or more.
The most common treatments for calf injuries involve rest, anti-inflammatory medications and ice or heat. In the most severe cases of rupture, surgery may be recommended to rejoin the muscle fibers or reattach damaged tendons.
Regular, weight-bearing exercise to keep the calf muscles strong along with regular stretching to keep the muscles supple are a key defense against injury. Proper vitamin intake and adequate hydration also assist in optimum muscle strength and function.